Large zushi, made on order for a temple, containing a seated group of En no Gyoja, the father of Shugendo, with his two attendants Zenki and Goki inside a cave. En no Gyoja is sitting with a staff in his right hand, and a hand scroll in his left. The two attendants are crouched before him. The green attendant (Goki) holds a ewer and a stick to ring a bell or mokugyo; the red disciple (Goki) holds an axe.
Wood with polychrome and gold color over gesso, eyes reverse-painted glass or crystal, staff of En no Gyoja gilded bronze.
Japan, Edo period, circa 1800
Measurements zushi H 21 x W 13 x D 9.5 inches
Extremely rare subject matter
En no Gyoja was a 7th century mountain ascetic. He is considered to be the father of Shugendo, a sect in which Shinto and pre-Buddhist mountain worship blends with Tantric Buddhist rituals. Physical endurance, such as seclusion, fasting, meditation, engaging in austerity, is seen as the path to Enlightenment. Practitioners are called Shugenja or Shugyosha, and Yamabushi. Amalgamations of Shinto and Buddhism were forbidden at the Meiji restauration and the Shugendo sect was banned in 1872. Its existing places of worship were either transformed to Shinto shrines or became branches of Shingon or Tendai Buddhism.